Say no today…tomorrow is another day

Scripture of the Week – Proverbs 25:17 – “Seldom set foot in your neighbor’s house; otherwise, he’ll get sick of you and hate you.”

This week on The Consultant and The Coach we are talking about setting appropriate boundaries for yourself, your teams and your company’s culture so you can thrive as a business and realize your goals and dreams. This scripture is helpful because it highlights the need for space and to respect the space of other people.

What are boundaries? Boundaries are a healthy way to set up structure in your life and work (aka – Say ‘NO!’). The challenge for leaders is to always be the same person while creating healthy separation to varying degrees in their life and work. We address frequently on the podcasts the importance of knowing your circle of trust.

Envision your life as a series of concentric circles. At the core are your primary values, goals and priorities. This should be held in close agreement with anyone who may be in your nuclear family – spouse, children, etc. Then as you move outward, begin to add people and lesser degrees of intimacy to each level. For example, Level 2 may be parents, siblings, life group members, pastor, therapist or anyone holding you accountable for matters in life, not just work. Level 3 may be close friends, a mentor, a close working peer or board member. Level 4 is your team and your Board or other supervisor relationship. Level 5 are others in your organization or community, etc. You are always truthful, respectful and engaging with every level but how you draw boundaries with each level is intended to ultimately help you thrive so that eventually you will enable yourself to live out your values every single day.

Where does this go wrong? First, as you might imagine, this can go very wrong as sin and dysfunction are introduced. When divorce or family separation occurs, the inner circles are broken, shared values destroyed and major turmoil impacts every level of your circles. Broken trust with siblings, parents or a faith community where there should be strong supporting relationships can tear down someone’s confidence in themselves and their environment, resulting in years or more of dysfunctional behavior and/or a lack of an ability to trust. As you move further out, the fallout from the broken relationships is less severe but can still hurt.

Another mistake is when leaders fail to set their boundaries well so that no one enters into the inner circles at all – they shut out their spouse, children, siblings, parents, pastor, friends and faith community – keeping everyone emotionally at Level 3 or beyond. This can have devastating long-term consequences on leaders who do not surround themselves with community. One of the primary reasons leaders fail is when they do not surround themselves with intimate relationships which offer accountability and counsel.

Finally, a third mistake some might make is rushing every relationship in Levels 1-2. This can create emotional exhaustion and overload by digging in deep with too many people without the ability to actually get any real work done for your company. By trying to communicate too many details and too much emotion to too many people in your company, you are sacrificing your ability to lead a team well.

We don’t have to look far in the Bible for a good example of levels like this when we examine the life of Jesus. At his core, he talked extensively about his relationship with the Father God and regularly stepped away to be with his Heavenly Father. We catch a glimpse of this intimacy on the night before Jesus died when he was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26). Jesus seemed to have a Level 2 core which included three disciples – Peter, James and John (Transfiguration, Matthew 17) and his Mother, Mary. Level 3 was the 12 disciples. Level 4 included other followers referenced generally in many places including several women such as Mary and Martha. Then further out came the public, religious leaders, etc. Jesus both told them truth and kept them at arm’s length in how he would step away or wait for his time to come.

Josh learned this in his own leadership journey. Growing up in an environment that included a lot of emotional neglect, he was desperate for emotional intimacy when he left for college. It used to drive him crazy when people would do the typical “How are you?”, “I’m fine, how are you?”, “Fine” exchange around campus. For a time, Josh went out of his way to stop anyone who asked him “how are you?” to explain probably far too much about his day, his emotions, or other top of mind details. This overcorrection led to dysfunctional habits of allowing himself to be swung wildly from hour to hour by his emotions.

Time (three weeks from now!), experience and maturity all helped Josh understand this concept of levels and that by appropriately setting up circles of trust and intimacy in his life, it is easier to have the benign conversations with people who are at Level 5 and beyond as long as he has people and places to be radically transparent about struggles and challenges. More to come on this process in future blogs.

We hope this concept of boundaries frees you to say ‘NO’ and is encouraging to your journey.

What are some ways The Consultant and The Coach help their clients with boundaries? 

The Consultant

  • Work with a board, CEO and/or executive team to assess their culture on issues related to time off, setting firm boundaries, levels of anxiety and ability of everyone across the organization to step away and refresh on a daily, weekly and annual basis.
  • Develop a strategy and communication plan that is both honest and transparent while recognizing different levels of the company have access to varying degrees of information.

The Coach

  • Work with leaders to document their circles of trust and strategies for communicating honestly and appropriately with each group within the company. 
  • Support leaders to setup a plan and hold themselves accountable to drawing boundaries in their life both at work, home and other environments that they value